Blog May 21, 2024

Tape Backup: An Old-School Solution to Modern Cybersecurity Challenges

Learn why tape backup has stood the test of time, and continues to be a crucial defense against cyber threats.

Cybersecurity, Data Protection, Disaster Recovery, Tape Backup

In discussions of advanced digital storage, cloud solutions and solid-state drives dominate the conversation today. This is why it’s deceptively easy to dismiss a tried-and-true option like tape backup as outdated or obsolete. However, this perception fails to recognize the unique advantages that tape backup offers, particularly in the face of increasingly sophisticated cyber threats.

Despite advancements in digital storage technologies, tape backup remains a vital component of a comprehensive data protection strategy, especially in the context of modern cyber threats. While it may seem counterintuitive to rely on a technology that has been around for decades, the inherent features of tape backup — stronger security, unmatched longevity, and low costs — make it an indispensable tool for safeguarding critical data.

The Evolving Landscape of Cyber Threats

Over the last decade, seemingly at an unstoppable pace across industries, cyber threats have grown in both prevalence and sophistication. Ransomware, phishing attacks, and data breaches have become alarmingly common, posing significant risks to organizations of all sizes. The shifting nature of these threats demands a proactive and multi-layered approach to data protection, with tape backup playing a crucial role.

Ransomware in particular has emerged as one of the most devastating forms of cyberattack, with 81% of organizations reporting ransomware incidents in 2023. Alarmingly, 73% of affected SMBs chose to pay the ransom, highlighting the severe impact of these attacks. Financial extortion via ransomware has also risen sharply, with a $176 million increase in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022.

For email-based security incidents, phishing remains the most prevalent form of attack, accounting for 43% of all email threats. Cybercriminals are increasingly leveraging advanced tactics like generative AI to create more convincing phishing emails and social engineering schemes, making it even more challenging for individuals and organizations to detect and prevent these attacks.

A growing reliance on cloud-based solutions has also exposed organizations to new vulnerabilities. According to CrowdStrike, there was a staggering 75% increase in cloud environment intrusions as adversaries exploited identity-based vulnerabilities to gain and escalate privileges. Identity-based attacks have thus surged, with cybercriminals using sophisticated methods like generative AI, and purchasing legitimate credentials from access brokers to compromise accounts and infiltrate networks.

The Many Advantages of Tape Backup

In the face of increasingly pernicious cyber threats, tape backup offers several unique benefits that make it an essential component of a comprehensive data protection strategy.


One of the most significant benefits of tape backup is its ability to create an “air gap” between the backed-up data and the network. Air-gapped systems are disconnected from other networks, including the Internet, to prevent unauthorized access or data breaches. By physically isolating the tape media from the network, organizations can protect their data from online cyber threats such as ransomware and malware. Even if a cybercriminal successfully breaches the network, they cannot access the data stored on offline tape backups.

Tape backups also have an immutability option when stored using write-once-read-many (WORM). A staple for over 50 years in backup technology, WORM ensures the authenticity of stored data because data cannot be deleted or overwritten. This ensures that data is safe from non-malicious data loss threats like accidental file deletions as well as cyber threats.

Combining air gapping and immutability provides an unparalleled level of security that is difficult to achieve with purely digital or cloud-based storage solutions.

Durability and Reliability

Tape backup is well known for its longevity compared to other storage media. While hard drives and solid-state drives (SSDs) have a typical lifespan of 3-5 years and 5-10 years, respectively, tape media remains viable for 10-20 years and can last up to 30 years in optimal conditions. Additionally, tape is less susceptible to environmental factors such as temperature and humidity fluctuations, which can cause data loss in other storage media. The durability and reliability of tape make it an ideal choice for long-term data archiving and disaster recovery.


For organizations dealing with large volumes of data, tape backup offers significant cost benefits. When measured on a cost-per-TB basis, tape has the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) of any storage medium. Tape is energy-efficient and available in high capacities, making it a cost-effective option for long-term data storage. As enterprise-grade data continues to grow exponentially, the cost advantages of tape become increasingly attractive.

Compliance and Scalability

Many industries have specific regulatory requirements for data retention and archiving, such as HIPAA in healthcare and SOX in finance. Tape backup can help organizations meet these compliance requirements by providing a secure, long-term storage solution that is both tamper-proof and auditable. Moreover, tape backup is highly scalable, allowing organizations to accommodate growing data needs easily without incurring significant additional costs. As data volumes continue to increase, the scalability of tape backup ensures that organizations can maintain a robust data protection strategy well into the future.

Seamlessly Integrating Tape Backup with Other Data Protection Methods

While tape backup offers numerous advantages, it is most effective when integrated with other data protection methods as part of a comprehensive strategy. In recent years, the widely adopted “3-2-1” backup strategy has been updated to a 3-2-1-1-0 strategy: maintaining three total copies of your data, with two copies stored locally on different media, one copy stored off-site, one copy stored offline as immutable and air-gapped, and zero errors in restoring the data requiring proper and frequent disaster recovery testing procedures.

This strategy ensures that even if one backup fails or is compromised, there are still two other copies available for recovery with one of them existing in an isolated environment. In this context, tape backup is often used as one of the local copies, the off-site copy, and/or the offline copy. For example, an organization may store one copy on a local hard drive, another copy on a local tape backup, and a third copy on a tape stored in a secure off-site location that’s air-gapped. This approach leverages the benefits of tape backup while also ensuring data redundancy and accessibility.

Moreover, tape backup can act as a failsafe in the event that other backup methods, such as disk-based or cloud storage, become inaccessible. For example, if a ransomware attack encrypts an organization’s primary data and online backups, the offline tape backup can be used to restore the data without paying the ransom.

Misconceptions and Technological Advancements

While tape backup has historically been slower than disk-based storage in terms of data retrieval, this is less of an issue for long-term archival and disaster recovery solutions. In these scenarios, the emphasis is on data preservation and security rather than frequent access. Additionally, advancements in tape technology have significantly improved access speeds, making it more viable for certain active archiving use cases.

Another common concern is that tape backup is difficult to manage and integrate with modern IT infrastructures. Encouragingly, many tape backup systems now offer software solutions that simplify the management process and provide seamless integration with existing backup and recovery workflows. These software tools often include features such as automated tape rotation, data encryption, and remote management capabilities, making tape backup easier to implement and maintain.

More Density, More Speed

One notable innovation in tape technology is the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) standard, which has consistently increased tape capacities and data transfer rates with each new generation. The latest iteration, LTO-9, offers a native storage capacity of 18TB per cartridge (up to 45TB compressed) and a native data transfer rate of 400MB/s (up to 1000MB/s compressed). These improvements have made tape backup more efficient and cost-effective for storing large volumes of data.

Another advancement is the use of new magnetic particle formulations, such as strontium ferrite, which enables higher storage densities and improved data integrity. Strontium ferrite particles are smaller and more uniform than previous magnetic particles, allowing for more data to be stored on a single tape cartridge. This innovation has led to the development of tape cartridges with capacities exceeding 500TB, further enhancing the scalability and cost-effectiveness of tape backup.

In addition to increased capacities and transfer rates, technological advancements have also improved the searchability and accessibility of data stored on tape. Innovations like the linear tape file system (LTFS) and active archive solutions have made it easier to search and retrieve specific files from tape backups without the need to restore the entire dataset. This has expanded the potential use cases for tape backup beyond just long-term archiving and disaster recovery.

A Dependably Mature Technology That’s Also Future-Proof

Even in the world of cutting-edge storage and data protection, tape systems are a critical component with growing importance in responding to cyberthreats. By leveraging the benefits of tape backup and integrating it with other data protection methods, organizations can create a more resilient, secure, and cost-effective approach to safeguarding their critical data.

At Recovery Point, we understand the vital role that tape backup plays in protecting against modern cybersecurity challenges. Our tape services are designed to help organizations integrate tape backup seamlessly into their broader data protection strategies. We manage all aspects of physical tape storage operations as a service, including infrastructure provision, media creation, rotation, and expiration activities.

We encourage businesses to take proactive steps to strengthen their data protection posture and explore how tape backup can enhance their overall cybersecurity resilience. Whether you are looking to implement a new tape backup solution or optimize your existing tape infrastructure, Recovery Point’s Tape Services can help you achieve your data protection goals and ensure the security and longevity of your critical data.

Contact Recovery Point today to learn more about our tape services and how we can help you safeguard your organization against the ever-growing threat of cyberattacks.


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